Earlier this month, the HSBC TravelOne Card added eight new airline and hotel partners, bringing the total roster to an impressive 20. Unfortunately, they also took the opportunity to announce a 10,000 points conversion fee, which would kick in from 25 January 2024.
Needless to say, cardholders did not take well to that development. It was an absurdly expensive fee, working out to approximately ~S$60, almost 2.5X the price of the market at large.
But, in a sure sign that complaining on the interwebs always works, HSBC has now backed down on that policy- at least temporarily.
HSBC extends free conversions till 31 May 2024
The HSBC Travel One Card’s proposed conversion fee would have charged a flat 10,000 points per transfer, the equivalent of 4,000 KrisFlyer miles.
According to HSBC, this fee was derived based on the rate used for Pay with Points (4,000 points = S$10), and hence a S$25 fee cost 10,000 points. But come on- no one in the right mind chooses Pay with Points, and if it’s all the same to them, I’d rather pay the S$25!
Well, HSBC has now walked back its plans. Per an update on the website:
The waiver on redemption fee for redeeming air miles and hotel points has been extended to 31 May 2024.
That’s all good and well, but does that mean the 10,000 points fee is dead, or just delayed? I asked HSBC for a comment, and was told the following:
We are still assessing this internally based on the public’s feedback and are reviewing our options further. In the meantime, we have extended the free redemption until May.
So in other words, it’s Schrödinger’s fee at this point. HSBC has decided not to introduce it on the original timeline, but hasn’t committed to removing it altogether.
What are the implications?
First of all, let me say I’m glad that HSBC has backtracked on what was quite frankly an implausibly bad decision. I don’t know what they were thinking, but when you’re the new kid on the block, charging a 10,000 points fee is not how you win friends and influence people.
That said, I fear the damage has already been done. A stunt like this doesn’t exactly engender goodwill among customers, and until HSBC fully renounces its plans, there’ll always be a fee of Damocles dangling over cardholders. And even if they do, who’s to say it won’t make a return at some point in the future? The genie is out of the bottle.
On the bright side, the delaying of the new fee means that those who applied for the HSBC TravelOne Card recently won’t be playing a nervous waiting game hoping their 50,000 bonus points get credited before 25 January 2024, as they were previously.
It also means that based on HSBC’s crediting timeline (90 days from the card opening date), the deadline to apply for a TravelOne Card and transfer your welcome bonus out while avoiding the fee is 26 January 2024. It’s hard to believe that’s not a coincidence, with HSBC wanting to avoid a situation where year-end TravelOne applications drop in anticipation of the proposed fee’s implementation.
If you apply after this date, you leave yourself open to the possibility of your welcome bonus effectively being cut by 20%, as that 10,000 points fee takes a big bite out of the 50,000 bonus points.
I personally have yet to transfer out my welcome bonus; my plan was to do so in mid-January. With the delay in implementation, I’ll hold my points on the bank side a little longer to keep my options open, though since I’m no longer actively spending on this card, there’s no further accumulation happening.
The HSBC TravelOne Card has extended its fee-free transfer period till 31 May 2024, delaying the implementation of its highly unpopular 10,000 points conversion fee. That’s welcome news for cardholders, though it remains unclear whether HSBC has killed the idea completely, or is just kicking the can down the road.
As glad as I am to see this, you don’t really get points for fixing what you broke in the first place.